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Friday, December 31, 1999
Sports Memories
In over eighteen years of covering area sports you gather a lot of memories. Memorable games, memorable teams but most of all memorable people. I'm just reflecting on a lot of those things, as many of you are, as the year and the century come to a close. I'd like to share some of them with you in this column and encourage you to share some of them with me in an e-mail. [email protected]

Some things I'll never forget:

Michelle Danielson winning the 800 meter run as an 8th grader and then doing it again as a senior.
Jon Kretchman's heroics for Team USA on the Ottertail River in the '96 World Barefoot Ski Championships.
Don Stueve climbing into the Crow's Nest ... and scurrying down in a tight game's closing minutes.
Tim Swenson hitting nothing but net in '84 to send the Otters to state.
Hillcrest playing in Prep Bowl I ... and feeling bad for Nick Mundis who missed the game with an injury.
Rex Haugen's 1984 Pelican Rapids state champions.
Covering Bob Hatlestad's Perham volleyball teams in their state tournament years.
Charlie Nelson's incredible speed and athletic talent.
Ben Brimhall to Tim Erickson.
Live TV coverage from Delhi, New York when the Spartans played in the NJCAA Division III tourney.
The gift my wife and I received from many area sports fans in 1990 ... a trip to Cooperstown, NY for Rod Carew's induction into the Hall of Fame ... THANK YOU ALL AGAIN!
Being in Anaheim for Carew's 3000th career hit and getting his autograph on the game program.
Emceeing the Twins winter caravan stop the following summer and having Frank Viola sign the program, too.
Todd Johnson's 3-run walk-off homer against Staples in 1983. Staples won the state title that year.
Watching Jon Pontius compete ... great athletic talent, great commitment.
Len Kretchman making a half court shot against Staples.
Attending Game 7 of the 1991 World Series ... thanks to Dave Goltz!
The heartbreak of losing two Section Championship games in hockey.
The dedication of Tim Cullen, driving everyday from Alexandria to coach the Otter hockey team for 7 years.
Ryan Retzlaff's work ethic on the basketball court.
Jeff Mehl, Blaine Rude, Paul Quam ... what a line!
The 29-0 Spartans ... 1998 NJCAA Division III National Champs.
Brian Carlsrud's breakaway speed and football savvy.
Ben Brimhall to Justin Arneson.
Jenny Gronner's incredible high school track career.
Phil Link's hard-hitting Underwood football teams.
Eric Ecker's nerves of steel and two state golf titles.
Scott Colbeck's free throw shooting.
Retz and Ann ... FFCC is blessed!
The Fergus Falls Red Sox reunion ... coordinated by Harley Oyloe and Fred Krog.
The inimitable style of Oats LeGrand.
Keith Pearson playing in two state basketball tournaments ('84 & '86) and playing games at Williams Arena, the St. Paul Civic Center and The Metrodome.
Carleen Rose's graceful style.
Wishing for a state appearance for Denny Hanson only to have Alexandria end that hope.
The Spartan Chili Feed ... Oh, what a night. Thanks to Gary Rogers, Becky Odden & Brett Hopponen.
Jason Retzlaff's love of basketball.
Laurie Rueckert draining 3's.
Aaron Olson's incredible numbers during the 1998 American Legion Baseball Season and his appearance in SI's Faces in the Crowd.
The growth of Fergus Falls Soccer.
Back-to-back state swimming titles for Hanna Dale and Erin Seeba.
Three straight state hockey tournament appearances for the Otters and a 3rd place finish in '99.
The Lady Spartans 1985 state championship at the tournament hosted by FFCC.
Kevin Pearson being drafted by the Twins.
Talking sports, especially baseball, with Kris Svingen.
Chris Wasberg's insights to local sports and his love of the games.
Dave Retzlaff's coaching philosophy ... Play hard and have fun!

There are so many memories and these are just some off the top of my head. I have enjoyed talking sports with many of you through the years and invite you to share some memories with me by e-mail. If you have a story to tell, we've got the place to do it, our "Blast from the Past". Share it!! Here's to many more memories as we begin a new year, a new century, a new millenium!
Posted By Craig Olson
Thursday, December 23, 1999
Pickin the NFC
Some of you may say that pickin' the NFC is nearly impossible this season ... I would agree with you! If there was one thing I was certain of coming into the season, it was the fact that the St. Louis Rams would not have the best NFC record. Well, no other team can catch them. They are 12-2 and winners of 10 straight. The Rams are the only team assured of a playoff spot in the NFC. There are nine other teams vying for the other five spots. Of course, division winners are in. From there it's the best three remaining records. So, who's in?
Just St. Louis (champs of the West). In the Central (Tampa Bay 9-5) ... the Bucs although thoroughly embarrased by Oakland last week, is still looking ahead. They have Green Bay at home and Chicago (the Bears are still mathematically alive) on the road in the final two weeks. The Packers (7-7) have their backs against the wall (I heard that someplace). They will host Arizona in the final week of the season. Detroit (8-6) will host Denver and play at the Metrodome. They need one win for certain, two puts 'em in. Minnesota (8-6) can clinch with a win, a Dallas loss or tie, a Carolina loss or tie, and an Arizona loss or tie. Not likely to happen this weekend. I still think we'll see three and possibly four teams from the Central in the playoffs. In the East, Washington appeared to have it won, but lately there is doubt. The 'Skins are 8-6. Dallas and the Giants (7-7) are challenging and Arizona (6-8) is on the outside peering in. Okay, my picks for two weeks from now to be in the playoffs, Tampa Bay as Central Division champs, Washington Eastern Division champs, Minnesota, Dallas and Detroit as the wild card teams. We'll do the AFC next column. Enjoy the weekend games ... it should be fun!

Perham's Breanna Richter is having a sensational season with her three point shooting. The senior co-captain has hit 13 of 21 three's for 62%! She was 3 for 3 on Tuesday night when the Yellowjackets dismantled Frazee 74-29 to finish the pre-holiday schedule at 6-0.

How about this stat from the Rothsay-Hancock boys basketball game on Tuesday night ... the Owls did not attempt a single free throw. Now that's incredible! Rothsay lost Mark Steiner with an ankle sprain. The extent of the injury is not known at this time.

Jake Carr's shoulder injury kept him sidelined in the final pre-Christmas dual for the Otters, a 42-19 win over Moorhead. In Carr's abscence, eighth-grader Drew Haataja is seeing some varsity action.

Pelican Rapids will be without the services of Amanda Bunkowski for a little while longer. She was scheduled to have an MRI to see the progress on her broken wrist. Coach Doug Bruggeman is hoping to have her back sometime in January for the 5-1 Vikings. They miss her fire!

Chad Davison, who scored 30 points for West Central Area on Tuesday night against the Otters, was honored as a member of the Class AA, All-State Academic Football Team for 1999.

14 year old Jena Boen of Fergus Falls finished second in the International Junior World Champion Dog Sled Race held in the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. Jennifer Carlson of Erhard competed in the same class and was fifth out of 12 competitors. Be watching the "Special of the Day", sponsored by Service Food, for a story on Jena and Jennifer.

From www.craigolsonsports.com Merry Christmas! For some uplifting, inspirational reading, share Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke with your family this Christmas!

Please e-mail any comments or suggestions including story ideas to us at [email protected] . We would love to hear from you!
Posted By Craig Olson
Sunday, December 19, 1999
Of Interest
Staples-Motley can shoot the ball. The Otters shot well Friday night but trailed by six at halftime to a red-hot shooting club. The Cardinals are not deep but their starting lineup is exceptional. Dustin Hjelmeland in heading to Northern State of Aberdeen next year. Wade Christensen will play some college ball somewhere, and Jeff Brever, the outstanding point guard is just a junior. Lynn Peterson has another solid contender in Section 8AA.

Some of you Spartan fans may remember Jim Feeney who coached at Mesabi Community College in the late 1980's. In fact, he coached against the Spartans in the 1988 State title game in Brainerd, a game won by FFCC after staging a tremendous comeback. I had a chance to visit with Coach Feeney following the Otters game at Staples. He is currently the head men's basketball coach at the University of Mary in Bismarck. He's out on the recruiting trail whenever possible. Talking about that title game in '88 Feeney said, "I think I was a little overmatched on the bench that game."

Derrick Nelson's Underwood boys basketball team won their first game of the year on Saturday at NDSCS against Lidgerwood, ND. The turnover-plagued team had only 7 turnovers in the contest. Coach Nelson will have the Rockets playing fundamentally sound ball and intense defense on a consistent basis.

Coach Gary Schuler says that several former Otters are playing college ball. David Newell at Gustavus-Adolphus, Jason Retzlaff at NDSU, Brendan Giese at Northwestern of St. Paul, Dan Harris at Valley City State, Cody Norman at FFCC and Nick Heintzelman at Alexandria Tech.

Senior Will Sutor has taken down a record. Sutor set the Detroit Lakes pool record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 49.87 seconds. The record had been held since 1987 by Jeff Nelson, a Laker Swimmer.

Tough luck for the Rothsay Tigers. Jesse Toso suffered a concussion during their game at Clinton last week. Toso is out of action for as long as it takes for her to feeel better. Kristen Moen suffered a knee injury and could miss several games, too. The Tiger girls are truly the walking wounded.

Twins in Minnesota will have something to look forward to -- thanks to the Minnesota Twins. The ballclub is promising free lifetime season tickets to the first sets of twins born in the new year at seven Minnesota hospitals. The new babies will also get visits from Twins' players and a bunch of other team stuff. While only the first twins will get the tickets, all twins and multiple-birth babies born during the year will get Minnesota Twins rookie baby T shirts and stocking caps.

Can you believe the Devil Rays lineup. They pick up Greg Vaughn and Vinny Castilla on the same day to bat in an order that already includes Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff is incredible. Can the Twins have even one of those guys?

I like it when a player in the twilight of his career goes back to where he had his success. That's the case of Orel Hershiser who has signed a one year deal with the Dodgers. Hershiser (the Bulldog) has bounced around a little since leaving LA. He has appeared on the Indians and Mets squads most recently. He's a competitor and will give his all as a number four starter in their rotation. It's good to talk a little baseball!

Please e-mail any comments or suggestions including story ideas to us at [email protected] . We would love to hear from you!
Posted By Craig Olson
Wednesday, December 15, 1999
Some Quick Notes
I'm about to head out the door for Willmar and tonight's Spartan basketball double header (listen in on Oldies 1020 KJJK AM at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. for both games). Just wanted to update a few quick items for you.

Great performance by Julie Hatlestad's Perham girls basketball team on Tuesday night. They shot 54% from the field, played a tenacious defense that caused 27 Otter turnovers, and got a great floor game from their team leader, point guard Breanna Richter. Richter had a career-high 25 points on 7 of 12 shooting (4 of 8 on 3's), scoring 13 points in the momentum-swaying third quarter and also had 8 assists and 3 steals. Her effort overshadowed that of teammate Frances Rise who has 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting. This Yellowjacket team is 4-0 and they are for real. They'll be in the thick of the H-O-L race this season.

Harold Nelson's West Central Area Knights had 13 players score in their win over Ashby on Tuesday. I don't think I've ever seen that many individuals score for one team in a high school girls basketball game. Megan Ronhovde is healthy again after missing a week with the flu.

Pelican Rapids girls coach Doug Bruggeman is glad to have Jocelyn Ripley back in the lineup. She played a very solid game against D-G-F with 11 points as she works her way back into game shape after injuring her MCL.

Former Rothsay Tiger and FFCC Lady Spartan and current Mayville State player Anita Follingstad is sidelined after suffering an appendicitis attack and having an emergency appendectomy (sound familiar?). Anita was stricken on Saturday night at home. She'll miss at least one game, but is hoping to be able to go to California for her team's holiday tournament next week. Her coach at FFCC Ann Williams had the same thing happen to her in November.

Fergus Falls High School graduate David Newell has made the varsity at Gustavus Adolphus. Last Saturday David played 20 minutes of the junior varsity game against Hamline, scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and coming up with 4 steals. He made his varsity debut that same day, seeing 12 minutes of action, scoring 4 points on 2 for 2 shooting and dishing out 3 assists in his team's 74-60 win. The Gusties will play in a holiday tournament on December 29th and 30th in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Former Otter standout athlete and West Point graduate Jon Pontius is a new father. Jon and his wife Megan (a Pennsylvania girl), are proud parents of a 7 pound 9 ounce boy, Luke Alexander, born at 11:00 p.m. on Monday, December 13th. Jon is currently stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas and Megan is stationed in Texas. Fortunately, during her maternity leave the whole family will be together at Fort Riley.

More Later ... the bus leaves in 20 minutes and Retz won't hold it for me!

Please e-mail any comments or suggestions including story ideas to us at [email protected] . We would love to hear from you!
Posted By Craig Olson
Friday, December 3, 1999
The Greatest
He called himself "The Greatest" and he was right. Muhammed Ali was the greatest fighter of all time. He was also named the Sportsman of the Century during Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The three time heavyweight champion of the world is suffering from Parkinson's disease, but was able to walk up to the stage and receive his award from Billy Crystal, himself a big Ali fan and a great Ali imitator. Ali also addressed the audience briefly. Is there any more recognizable athlete in the world than Ali? He can't go anywhere on the planet without someone knowing him. His is an incredible story of American success. He started boxing at 12, won AAU and Golden Gloves titles in 1959 and 1960, and won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 in the light heavyweight division. His win over Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manilla" has been called the greatest fight of all time. A fitting choice for the Sportsman of the Century.

Other awards went to Babe Ruth in baseball (we still refer to monumental accomplishments in sports as being Ruthian in nature), Michael Jordan in basketball (no one had more impact in a team sport, leading the Bulls to six NBA championships), Jim Brown in football (would have been even greater, but retired early and his incredible numbers were put up in an era when the NFL season was 12 games long), Wayne Gretzky in hockey (61 records, Hall-of-Famer upon retirement, the Great One) and Carl Lewis in the Olympian category. Jack Nicklaus was named the Top Male Individual Athlete and Babe Didrickson Zaharias the Top Female Individual Athlete.

There were also seven athletes honored who had special impact in their sports. Golfer Arnold Palmer, Pele in soccer, driver Richard Petty, baseball player Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell in basketball, figure skater Peggy Fleming and tennis player Billie Jean King.

The Top Greatest Sports Moments of the century included the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey championship, Bobby Thompson's Pennant Winning Homer in 1951 for the New York Giants, Mark McGwire's 62nd homerun in 1998 and Ali's knockout of Sonny Liston in 1964 to win his first heavyweight title.

The end of the century has caused us to look back on many accomplishments in sports in our lifetime and before. It has been good to remember the individuals, the teams, the records, the titles. I don't know about you but I've found myself lost in several great memories this year as various media recognize athletes of the century. My favorites are Rod Carew in baseball, Johnny Unitas in football, Bobby Orr in hockey, Michael Jordan in basketball. Favorite events include the 1980 Olympic Hockey team, the 1987 and 1991 Twins, Maris hitting 61 homers, Big Mac and Sammy breaking that record in the same year and Mac hitting 70! Carew's 3000th hit, Aaron's 715th homer, the vision of Johnny U. coming out of the huddle and looking over the defense on his way to the line of scrimmage, and MJ's waggling tongue.

How about you? Do you have a favorite athlete or event of the century? If so, e-mail us with your story!

Please e-mail any comments or suggestions to us at [email protected] . We would love to hear from you!
Posted By Craig Olson
Wednesday, December 1, 1999
A Busy Week
This is indeed a busy week of local athletics! We've already seen the season openers for many area girls basketball teams with more to come on Thursday and Friday. The boys basketball teams in our area will be participating in jamborees (more on those in a minute) and some in scrimmages. Plus, the hockey and wrestling seasons begin this week as well. Some of the top individual and team efforts from the opening night can be found on the local school pages, which can be accessed by clicking on the school name to the left.

The jamboree schedule is a busy one this week. On Thursday in Battle Lake, the Little 8 Conference teams will gather for a fun evening of boys high school basketball. It starts at 6:00 p.m. with Rothsay facing Parkers Prairie. The 6:45 match has Ashby and Underwood going at it for a half, followed by Hillcrest and Henning at 7:30. The 8:15 game will pit the host team, Battle Lake against Brandon-Evansville.

The Pelican Rapids Jamboree features 12 teams and begins at 5:55 p.m. Friday with the Vikings 'B' team against the Barnesville 'B' team. At 6:35, Ulen-Hitterdal takes on Breckenridge, followed by Battle Lake and Barnesville at 7:15. The 7:55 contest has Hillcrest battling Perham with Rothsay and Lake Park-Audubon squaring off at 8:35. The final contest of the night will begin at 9:15 and will feature Pelican Rapids and Underwood.

At Barnesville on Saturday, the Perham and Barnesville 'B' teams start the action at 5:00 p.m., with Perham and Norman County West clashing at 5:45. The 6:30 matchup is between New York Mills and Pelican Rapids and the final game at 7:15 will put Barnesville up against Norman County East.

Gary Schuler doesn't get the Otters involved in jamborees but he does setup a number of scrimmages, including one against Win-E-Mac on Wednesday. Justin Retzlaff looked good inside in that scrimmage and Justin Arneson was the leading rebounder. Coach Schuler has challenged his guards to go after rebounds aggressively this season, wanting them to gather at least ten per game as a group. He certainly has a solid bunch of athletes at the guard spot and that number should be attainable on a consistent basis. The Otters will leave early on Saturday morning for a scrimmage at Buffalo. Andy Larsen, who was injured most of last year and played very little, has also looked good early this season. The Otters open up at Breckenridge on Tuesday.

The Fergus Falls boys hockey team is at St. Cloud to play Tech in their opener on Thursday and will go to Grand Forks for a game against Grand Forks Central. The Otters will be attempting to win a fourth straight Section title this season. Last year's third place finish in the state tournament is the best in Otter hockey history. This will be a different year for the Otters as Roger Johnson won't be on the bench coaching. You'll still see Rog around the rink though. After 34 years it's going to be hard to stay away! The Otters open with four straight road contests but come back with five straight at home including the Holiday Hockey Classic.

Please e-mail any comments or suggestions to us at [email protected] . We would love to hear from you!
Posted By Craig Olson
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